I had been looking forward to meeting another couple who were also planting a church. I imagined we all needed someone else with whom we could confide but the guy just wouldn’t shut up. He kept going on and on about the great things the Lord was doing, and through him of course. Looking back, I wonder if he just didn’t know how to stop talking. It was a good wake up call for me. I, too, like to talk. My Latino background encourages talking. For if others really want to talk, we were told, they will interrupt. It took living in the South before I realized this is not a true statement for all cultures. While there is that rare good listener out there, most of us could use the following tips taken from Parakaleo’s coaching manual. Obviously, not all conversations will require this level of intensity but if you wonder how to go deeper with others, this may help.

Active Listening

Active listening is listening with the intent to hear meaning. An active listener checks with the speaker to ensure a statement has been correctly heard and understood. The goal in active listening is to improve mutual understanding. There is no passivity in active listening.

As an active listener you will:

1. Ask questions.

Draw out the other’s story, thoughts, and feelings. “Tell me what that was like for you.”Avoid arousing defensiveness with questions, such as, “What were you thinking!?”

Use questions that probe for additional information. “Tell me more about…”

2. Express understanding

Acknowledge what you have heard.  “OK.” “Yes, I see.” “I understand.” It’s especially important to acknowledge hearing another person’s pain. “I’m sorry.” “I’m sad with you.” If what the speaker said brought you to tears, do not be afraid to show or speak this.

Reflect back to the person speaking by reiterating what you have just heard. “I hear you saying you are frustrated with…”

Self-disclose by sharing simple statements or relevant parts of your story that demonstrate connection with the other person. Yet, be careful not to distract the person by making the conversation about you.

Summarize by pulling together threads and themes of the conversation as you express delight, concern, or move to action steps if the person is asking for help.

3. Express delight and concern as appropriate

Affirm wisdom and growth in her, her family, children, ministry/career

Celebrate and encourage her to celebrate God’s work in, through, despite, and beyond her, her husband, and her ministry/career

Challenge false thinking, sinful actions/reactions. Invite her to repentance and to express her faith in love.

4. Know your own limits of time and emotional energy. If, in that moment, you do not have the time or the strength to listen or probe, wait until another time to ask questions.